Monday, February 13, 2006

Lessons

As we get into the second half of another fantasy basketball season, it’s always a good idea to stop and look at some lessons we’ve learned. These aren’t necessarily lessons about certain players, but more general trends that seem to surface every year that astute players should be aware of. So let’s look at a few and how they relate to this season.

Kenny Thomas Rule
This one’s actually a combination of two rules: 1) A “temporary fill in” is often much more than that, and 2) a “temporary fill in” on a team where the coach rides his starters is even better. As of Christmas, Kenny Thomas was entirely irrelevant for fantasy purposes. He saw 25 minutes of action just once on the season up to that point and had season highs of 11 points and 8 rebounds. But then Shareef Abdur-Rahim went down with an injury and Thomas found himself in the starting lineup. At first it was unclear how long Abdur-Rahim would be out, and this might have kept some people doubting Thomas’s ability to help a team long term. (I’m sorry. Very, very sorry.) But if there was any question as to whether he should be picked up, Rick Adelman’s heavy reliance on his starters should have been the deciding factor. Thomas entered the starting lineup on Dec. 27 and even though the Kings have pretty much returned to full strength since then (with Bonzi Wells being in and then out again), Thomas has been a mainstay, even with the return of SAR. In 24 games as a starter Thomas has averaged a robust 35.7 mpg and has put up a very impressive line of 12.6/9.7/2.6 with 1.2 steals on 50% shooting. A lot of those numbers came when the Kings were quite depleted, but even over the past six games Thomas is averaging 10.5/8.8/1.7 with 1.7 steals in 35.5 mpg. Not superstar numbers by any means, but numbers that certainly shouldn’t be sitting out on the waiver wire in any decent sized league. Most of what’s been said about Thomas can also be applied to Kevin Martin, who’s been talked about here before. The lesson is that if you have a roster spot to play with and see a situation like this, the reward is certainly worth the limited risk.

Shaq/Tim Duncan Rule
This one’s pretty cut and dry – big men don’t age all that gracefully. Once they’ve peaked, they’ve peaked; it’s hard for them to return to the land of past glories. It’s easy to underestimate the beatings these guys go through on a nightly basis in the league, and then you have to take into account all the extra games they’ve played in the playoffs over the years. Tim Duncan is still a few months away from his 30th birthday, so you might say, “Hey, that’s still pretty young!” But this is his ninth season in the league, and he’s been the main man for each one of those. And you can’t just ignore four years in the ACC before that. It takes its toll. That’s why I wrote this long, convoluted column over the summer explaining why I just wouldn’t feel comfortable taking Duncan with my first pick. It looked like he was ready to prove me wrong early on as he got off to a great start, averaging 21.3/11.7/3.2 with 2.5 blocks on 53% and 78% shooting in November. But it’s all been downhill from there. As of now Duncan is averaging career lows in FG%, blocks and points. His FT% is stuck at a not-crippling-but-certainly-hurting 66%. His rebounds and assists are decent, but considerably off from his peak years. He’ll certainly rebound a bit from his current slump, but it’s time to accept the fact that he’s no longer the fantasy stud that he was.

With Shaq it was a little more obvious, but it’s still worth noting. He looked pretty spry in yesterday’s win over Detroit (speaking of which, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday – those are the days of the week I’ll take Dwyane over LeBron; I’ll still give LeBron one day), going for 31, but we’re more than halfway through the season and that’s his high game to date. This is a guy who averaged 29.7 ppg back in 99-00. As of now Shaq is averaging career lows in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and points, and his FG% is his lowest since 96-97. Going just by averages – which means his injuries aren’t being held against him – he’s at #87 on the player rater, as he just isn’t dominant enough anymore to make up for his brutal FT%. Yes, in H2H leagues he can still be of great service, but for both of these guys, it’s time to let go. For real. Next person to fall prey? It’s looking like it could very well be KG

The FBB Rule to End All FBB Rules
Say it along with me – It’s all about the minutes. We say this a lot, but it really can’t be said enough. There are about 50, maybe 75 guys in the league who are legitimately on another level. It’s pretty obvious who these guys are. But everyone else, if you give them the same playing time, they’ll all put up about the same numbers. OK, this isn’t entirely true, but for the most part it works. It’s the idea of replacement level value that those wonderful nerds at Baseball Prospectus talk about all the time. I mean, let’s just look at yesterday’s games for example. Ryan Gomes was an afterthought of an afterthought for the entire season, a rookie who was a second round pick who got into two games in all of January. But with the Boston frontcourt depleted he found himself in the starting lineup and Doc Rivers was feeling lazy, not wanting to substitute, so Gomes ended up playing nearly 44 minutes. How’d he do? Not bad at all – 14 points, 9 boards, 2 steals, 4-of-8 from the field, perfect on 6 attempts from the line. Damien Wilkins showed he had some skills earlier when he got a temporary shot at PG for Seattle. Yesterday he got to fill in at SF for Rashard Lewis. And yes, this was a great matchup, with two high scoring teams and an extra five minutes, allowing Wilkins to play 48, and he responded with 21/10/4 with 2 steals on great shooting. I mean, even to a lesser extent, Charlie Bell was serviceable with his 40 minutes yesterday with 11/4/2 with a 3 and 2 steals. Not great at all, but 2 steals, a 3 and 4 assists are all decent. The minute is mighty.

17 Comments:

Blogger Rook said...

Appreciate the lessons, esp. about minutes. With about 30 games left, I'm considering accepting a trade for Billups to give me a push in assists, FT%, and TO. My question is to what degree surefire playoff teams like the Pistons might be inclined to rest their stars in the coming weeks, reducing their minutes and productivity. Is this a big factor in fantasy hoops?

The deal is my Pierce and Grant Hill for his Billups and Iguodala, if you're interested and want to give me guidance on that...

1:16 PM  
Blogger bv said...

rook,

the big wildcard in that deal is Hill. If he has decent value over the rest of the year (ie playing 70-80% of the remaining games, getting 30+ mpg) then I think you lose on the deal. If he tanks the season, you win.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous bublitchki said...

rook raises a good point, one that's proabbly worthy of its own column.

Which of the top players do you see as solid plays in the last weeks of the season? And, which ones do you see as risks for decreased playing time due to being rested for the playoffs, injuries, etc.?

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Rich said...

While it's true that Duncan's numbers are down across the board I find it ironic that while he's proabably recieved the most negative press in fantasy history regarding missing time with a possible injury he's only missed 1 game all year (which is probably better the 99% of the players in the league.) Meanwhile certifiable first round injury busts like AK47 and Tmac who were probably taken around the same spot in most fantasy drafts dont seem to get criticized nearly as much. And for league's that qualify Duncan ac a C, he's probably the 2nd or 3rd best player at the thinnest position in fantasy...

3:35 PM  
Blogger DM said...

I think that's what made Duncan's season even more frustrating. We were prepared for him to miss time; but we expected that as long as he was playing, he'd be the star we were used to. He's still a great player and fantasy asset, but it's all relative, of course. And I'm guessing Kirilenko ends up higher on most player raters by the end of the year.

3:51 PM  
Blogger bv said...

bublitchki, agreed. we'll take a look at that very question, probably later this week.

rich,
i've gotta disagree with you at least a little bit. Duncan's gotten criticism for two reasons: one, his injury history, and two, his declining production.

As far as the injury history, think about it this way. In mid-december, you could have made the same argument you're making now in favor of Marcus Camby. just because he's played in a lot of games so far doesn't mean that he'll play in all of the rest of the games of the season.

As for the declining production, that's what seperates him from guys like AK47 and T-Mac. before his recent mega-shooting slump, McGrady has been pretty much as good a fantasy player as he ever was when he's on the court. Same deal for AK47. Duncan, not so much.

Remember, he's strictly a 4-category player, only really helping in FG%, points, blocks, and boards, and really hurting in FT%. with his blocks falling by a good 20-25% from his usual numbers, that's hurt his value plenty. Add that to the fact that he's probably over-valued in general b/c of his star status and C eligibility, and that's probably why he gets so much flack.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous fax machine anthem said...

"(speaking of which, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday – those are the days of the week I’ll take Dwyane over LeBron; I’ll still give LeBron one day)"

i hope you mean in a hypothetical situation where you were an owner or gm and were constructing a team because an argument can be made...if you're talking in terms of a fantasy team though, there is no question that lebron is superior to wade

4:33 PM  
Blogger JM said...

I agree that Duncan has been sub-par this year. In 9-category leagues he's currently the 8th-ranked Center. (#32 overall player)
For context, here's the list of the top 10 centers (based on per game production, not season totals):
1.M.Camby
2.R.Wallace
3.C.Bosh
4.Y.Ming
5.S.Dalembert
6.B.Miller
7.M.Okur
8.T.Duncan
9.B.Wallace
10.Z.Ilgauskas

If your league doesn't count TO, than Duncan would move up to #5 ranked Center (#25 overall player). Either way, he's still a disappoinment for a First-round pick.

4:38 PM  
Blogger DM said...

Yes, I was talking about "real life" as pertains to LeBron and Dwyane. LeBron is clearly superior in fantasy. Dude can't have his team losing at home to the Warriors, though.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Charlie said...

Stop talking about Andre Kirilenko. Stop it now. As a proud and superstitious owner, please stop using "Andre", "Kirilenko", and "injury" in the same sentence. Let's be smart about this guys. Even if you don't own him, you know you like seeing highlights of the Russian Freak work his multi-category magic. So just let sleeping dos lie.

4:51 PM  
Anonymous Rich said...

I agree with your points, dm and bv, but all I'm saying is Duncan seems to take alot of the criticism for what might happen and none of the credit for what does happen.
Sure there's a risk he might miss some games later this season but the reality is he hasn't yet and noone gives him credit for being one of maybe 10 guys who have only missed one game all year (and for the flu, no less) And yes, his numbers aren't what they were but he's one of what, maybe 5 guys who can give you 20pts 10rebs 2 blocks shooting 50% on a nightly basis. And with center eligibilty to boot. He may not be a top 5 player anymore but give him credit for being a very good one.
As for JM's rankings my whole point is that TD can't be ranked lower in overall value to one's team (at THIS point in the season)than Camby, Dalembert, Yao, Brad, etc. beacause all of those players have missed significant time while TD actually makes it on the court every single night. The only guys who I agree are having signifcantly more valuable seasons are Bosh and Sheed.
If/when Duncan does miss a significant number of games later this season, then it's a different story. Of coure, after I write this I am now sure he will miss 25 of the next 30 games =)

5:09 PM  
Blogger JM said...

Rich,
good point about cumulative stats vs per game stats.

If you look at cumulative stats for Centers in 9-cat legues - Bosh and Rasheed blow away everybody else by a significant margin.

The next tier of centers - Okur,Miller,Ilgauskas,B.Wallace, Duncan and Camby have all had fairly pretty similar value (for cumulative stats).

In 8-cat (no TO) leagues, Bosh is the clear cumulative #1, and the next tier - Rasheed, Miller, Ilgauskas, Duncan, Okur, are all relatively close together.

5:46 PM  
Blogger JM said...

Darius Miles unexpectedly played tonight. Is it worth it to pick him up in a 12-team, 9-cat roto league.

I would likely drop Tony Battie.

Before he went down with the knee injury he was getting great pts, rebs, stls, blks
but TERRIBLE FT% and TO.
18 pts,6 rebs, 1.3 stls, 1.5 blks, 3.5 TO, 55%FT (7 att/game)

Do you think he may improve on his TO and FT% in the second half of the season?

Overall, I"m in first place in my league right now. The categories I need the most help in are TO,FT% and 3's. Since Miles doesn't help in any of those categories, it makes me reluctant to add him.

Maybe it's worth adding him for his potential trade value?

Other guys I'm considering adding: K. Van Horn, K. Snyder, B.Cook (all get good amount of 3's w/low TO - except for Snyder)

10:03 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Miles will be more valuable than any of those other guys for sure...so that means get him and trade him if you need to. Portland is a fantasy horrorland, as no one gets consistant, large minutes. Miles should get his starting spot back and help fg, steals, etc.

also, if those are your only three areas and miles hurts it more (not much more than Battie I think) then he'll only strengthen the other ones, which is imperitive in H2H

10:36 PM  
Blogger T-Plan said...

I completely disagree with you adding Miles for 2 reasons:
1. You don't need him. On 6+ attempts per game he'll certainly hurt you more than Battie. Don't overlook his steals and assists, which are the real assets he provides along with FG% and blocks. So, he combos big man and swing stats, while providing little to no 3s and trashing FT%.
2. He will be traded if Portland can pull it off. They really want to move him, and who knows where he'll go? Imagine if he goes to Dallas or Detroit - not good. But if he goes to Atlanta or Charlotte, really good.

On the other hand, I agree with you adding if . . .
1. You do trade him
2. Your league will let you do a fair trade, and the other teams will negotiate (mine won't)
3. You're stacked with Centers and can afford to get better numbers from a GF.

I'm also thinking about adding him, but of course my 3 most expendable players are hot right now (Eddie Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, Kenny Thomas) and undroppable. Also, I have G. Wallace about to return, who is essentiall Miles plus more steals/blocks/boards and less assists and FG%. Hmmm . . .

11:29 AM  
Blogger JM said...

T-plan,
good points about D.Miles.
I decided to drop him since Battie's production has fallen off recently. M.Kasun and P.Garrity are eating into his playing time, and if Cato ever returns, he will too.

We start 2 centers in my league. Currently I've got Dalembert and Chandler as my starters. K.Perkins is on my bench. I think he's got more upside for the 2nd half compared to Battie, thus I decided to keep him & drop Battie. (I could've also dropped Granger, whose production has tanked as well, but I still want to give him some time, since he's young and the Pacers are still working out their rotations.

So...I will keep Miles on my bench for now, and then try to trade him if his FT% and TO don't improve. Hopefully his great blks,stls will be attractive to someone. If not, i'll just drop him for the latest waiver wire wonder.

8:55 PM  
Blogger T-Plan said...

Hey JM,

Miles won't improve on FT%; trust me because I owned him last season. He has never been good at it and you can't just turn it on mid-season.

For TOs, expect those to stay high too. He gets good assists for his position, but that is a function of handling the ball a lot. Guys who handle the ball are more prone to TOs unless you're Steve Nash.

I recommend you drop Granger and pick up Pietrus from Golden State. Great percentages, double-figure scoring that will continue (and he starts), good steals, and a lot of boards. Not great steals, but he'll be useful to your team. And he fits your needs very well. You won't find a guy with this value on the FA wire often this late in the season.

Hope that helps

11:57 AM  

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